After neo-Nazi defendant Christopher Cantwell portrayed himself as a political victim in a recent court filing, attorneys for plaintiffs in a lawsuit against organizers of the Unite the Right rally have pointed to a radically different and violent tone in his podcasts.
Cantwell is one of more than a dozen defendants in a lawsuit filed by area residents against various Unite the Right organizers. The expansive lawsuit has been working its way through U.S. District Court in Charlottesville for more than two years, running into various issues along the way.
In July, attorneys for the plaintiffs filed a motion to enjoin Cantwell from making threats of violence against attorney Roberta Kaplan.
Cantwell, well known for his virulent, slur-filled podcasts, had posted an article on June 18 describing Kaplan as a “stupid k--e whore,” and wrote “we’re going to have a lot of fucking fun with her” after the lawsuit ends.
A second motion to enjoin followed soon after, citing further comments the plaintiffs allege are threatening. And at the end of July, Cantwell’s attorneys, Elmer Woodard and James Kolenich, asked to drop him as a client, citing difficulties and rebuking his behavior.
On Tuesday, nearly three months after the plaintiffs’ initial motion was filed against him, Cantwell submitted his response to the court, denying claims he threatened Kaplan and alleging a political conspiracy against him while simultaneously denying the existence of a conspiracy to commit acts of racist violence at the Aug. 12, 2017, rally.
Presenting an argument that he is a “struggling artist,” Cantwell alleges that he is under attack by wealthy entities intent on silencing him. Additionally, he claims his comments about wishing to “have fun” with Kaplan were not threats.
“‘Having fun’ with someone after a proceeding is hardly a “threat” and I had only meant to say that during these proceedings I would have been well advised not to say everything I wished to say about Roberta Kaplan’s interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency,” he wrote.
He goes on to accuse his attorneys of using his behavior as an excuse to drop him because he is unable to pay for their services. In their motion to drop him, Woodard and Kolenich cite his inability to pay as a reason.
“After two years of relentless struggle, I am exhausted, broke, and frankly, lacking faith in justice,” he wrote. “And so, I present myself as a beaten man, who is not guilty of the crimes alleged in the complaint before this court. I beg for justice, deeply skeptical of its supply, and await in despair whatever impositions may come of the injustice I have for so long struggled against, seemingly, to no avail.”
However, in their response to Cantwell’s filing, attorneys for the plaintiffs point to the different tone he struck while discussing the matter on his talk show the same day he made his filing.
“In yesterday’s filing, Mr. Cantwell projects an air of peaceful humility, claiming this lawsuit is an effort ‘to silence’ him — ‘a beaten man’ — and his associates,” the response reads. “To his impressionable and like-minded followers, however, he vividly spelled out what he believes is the natural consequence of this purported silencing: more shootings.”
In a provided transcript from Cantwell’s Tuesday show, he again claims he did not threaten Kaplan and says that the accusation “kind of removes the incentive for not threatening Roberta Kaplan, right?”
He goes on to argue his rhetoric is not responsible for mass shootings, instead blaming Jewish people and communism. Had El Paso shooter Patrick Cruisius listened to his show, Cantwell said he would not have committed the act.
“He would have ... heard me actively condemning these types of things because — and not even for any moral reason — I just don’t think they’re in our interest,” he said. “These are propaganda victories for my enemies.”
In plaintiffs’ closing, their attorneys again reiterate their request for an order preventing Cantwell from making threats.
“It has been nearly three months since Plaintiffs urgently sought relief from Mr. Cantwell’s threats. Yesterday’s tardy and two-faced response makes the need for such an order no less vital,” the response reads.
No hearing dates are currently set.